Over a billion fans tune in to the Academy Awards and eagerly await the name following “And the Oscar goes to….” But what do we really know about that prestigious movie award other than its name? Millions of us claim to be movie buffs, but when it comes to the highest honor awarded in the movie industry, many of us know very little about it.
The first Academy Award presentation was a far from the global event it is today. In fact, at that initial ceremony in 1929 only 270 people attended. It was held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and tickets cost just $5. Fifteen statuettes were awarded and there were no surprises, just long winded speeches, for the winners for the initial ceremony had been announced three months earlier.
The first Academy Awards ceremony was the only one without a media audience. The second year a Los Angeles radio station broadcast a live one hour show of the event. As the event grew in popularity and size it became impractical to hold the Oscars at a dinner ceremony. Starting in 1942 the event has been held at a theatre. In 1953 the Oscar’s were televised throughout America and Canada. Since 1969 the Oscar’s have been broadcast internationally and now reach people in over 200 countries.
Interestingly enough, no one is certain where the name ‘Oscar’ originated from. One story claims the Academy’s executive secretary commented that the statue reminded her of her Uncle Oscar. A biography of Bette Davis claims she named the statue after her husband Harmon Oscar Nelson. Regardless of the origin, the name stuck and has been formally used since 1939.
The statuette itself stands 13.5 inches high and weighs 8.5 pounds. It is not made of solid gold. Rather, it is made from a pewter-like allow called brittanium, which is mostly tin with some antimony and copper mixed in. It is then plated with gold. The nude male figure stands with a sword on top of a reel of film with five spokes. These spokes represent the actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers.
Between 1942 and the end of WWII the statuettes were made of plaster to conserve metal for the war effort. After the war ended the winners were given the actual trophy.
According to the Academy’s rules, a film cannot be nominated for an Oscar unless it has played in Los Angeles. This happened in the case of one of Charlie Chaplain’s Limelight which was produced in 1952. It only won an Oscar in 1972 after it was played in Los Angeles.
Oscar winners must abide by this rule. If they plan to sell their statuettes they must first offer them to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a whopping $1. In 1940 Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win the Oscar for her role in “Gone With the Wind.” She was required to sit in a segregated section of the room.
Three movies tie for the most Oscar wins with 11. They include “Ben Hur” (1959), “Titanic” (1997), and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). Two movies tie for the biggest let down. They were nominated 11 times and walked away empty handed. They include “The Turning point” (1977) and “The Color Purple” (1985).
Author: Dennis Phoenix is an entertainment buff that enjoys writing about entertainment awards. He works as a human resource specialist for Able Trophies. When not keeping up with the latest entertainment news, he can be found riding trails on his mountain bike.